Crashed cars: what do these insurance write-off categories mean?

Cat S, C, D, N: What do the car insurance write-off categories mean?

Crashed cars: what do these insurance write-off categories mean?

If you’re searching for a used car, you may come across vehicles described as a ‘previous write-off’.

Essentially, this means the car’s been damaged severely enough for the insurers to consider it not worth repairing, but someone has repaired it to return it to the road.

A car can be one of four write-off categories, depending on the severity of the damage.

These were revised in 2017 when the Association of British Insurance (ABI) changed its salvage code, to reflect the structural damage to a car rather than focusing solely on the cost of repair.

The categories are as follows:

Category A: The most serious category. Category A write-off must be crushed: it can never legally be used on the road again. Parts cannot be removed from the vehicle, even if they appear to be salvageable.

Category B: This signifies serious damage. The car again should never be used again on the roads and its body shell must be crushed. Parts may be removed from the vehicle for use on other cars.

Category S (formerly category C): The car has suffered structural damage and would be uneconomical to repair. If repaired by a professional, it may be returned to the road.

Category N (formerly category D): The least severe category. Damage is non-structural, but could affect safety-critical features such as brakes or steering. Category D write-offs may be returned to the roads, but not until they’ve been professionally repaired.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a car’s value can affect its likelihood to be written-off. As insurance companies are responsible for writing a vehicle off following a crash, these tend to work on the car’s value.

To put it simply, a nearly-new, expensive car will need a lot of damage to make it a write-off. An old banger with little value only needs small cosmetic damage to be written off.

Insurance write-off categories: Q&A

Car bootlid damaged in an accident

How do I know if a car’s been written off in the past?

Although sellers should legally declare an insurance write-off, some unscrupulous owners try to hide it. You can get around this buy searching for a car on Auto Trader, as all insurance write-offs are automatically declared, or by buying a vehicle history check.

Should I buy an insurance write-off?

The only reason to buy a car that’s previously been written off is if it’s considerably cheaper than an undamaged example. If it is, be aware that you’ll also have to declare it when you sell the car on, and that will affect it’s value.

Only category S and N vehicles (D and C under the old system) can legally be sold for use on the road. We’d want to fully understand what caused the damage and see evidence that it’d been repaired by a reputable body shop. You’ll also need to declare that it’s a write-off to your insurance company.

What happens to my car once it’s written-off?

If your car has been damaged and the insurance deems it not worthy of repair, they will offer you what they consider to be the market value of the car and essentially buy it off you. It will then be sold at auction of scrapped, depending on the severity of the damage.

If you wish to keep the car, you may be able to buy it from the insurance company. It’s worth noting that it’ll then be your responsibility to repair the car, and there may be extra damage that isn’t obvious by looking at it. You’ll also have to declare that it’s a write-off when you insure the car or sell it.

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How to save money on fuel

Petrol pump

Filling up with fuel is probably one of your biggest household bills. Just think: if you spend £50 a week on petrol or diesel, that adds up to £2,600 a year.

The good news is, saving fuel isn’t as hard as you might think – and in most cases it won’t cost you a penny.

In fact, follow our advice and you could find more money in your wallet at the end of the month.

Check your tyre pressures

Tyre pressures

Admit it, it’s been a while since you checked your car’s tyre pressures. Michelin recommends you should check them at least once month and before long journeys.

Ignoring this advice could damage your tyres, as well as having a negative effect on the way your car handles or stops in an emergency. More relevant to this feature is the impact it will have on your fuel consumption.

Tyres under-inflated by 15psi (1 bar) will lead to around six percent greater fuel consumption. That’s the equivalent of 47mpg instead of 50mpg. Most petrol stations will have a tyre inflator and some are free to use. Alternatively, you could invest in a good quality tyre pump, allowing you to check your pressures at home.

Remember, the correct tyre pressures will be listed in your car’s handbook, as well as somewhere on the car itself – often on the inside of the fuel filler cap.

Turn off the air conditioning

Air conditioning

At low speeds, using the air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by between five and seven percent. That’s according to Anthony Sale of the Millbrook Proving Ground. At higher speeds, air conditioning has less of an impact.

If possible, turn off the air-con when driving through town or when stuck in traffic, opening the car windows instead. When travelling on faster roads, close the windows and switch on the air conditioning, as driving with the sunroof or windows open will increase drag and thus fuel consumption.

Remember to use your air conditioning at least once a month to maintain its efficiency and avoid problems with the system.

Reduce weight

Reduce weight

The more your car is carrying, the harder the engine is having to work, which increases fuel consumption. In simple terms, if you don’t need it, don’t carry it.

This doesn’t mean you can dump your mother-in-law at the bus stop and tell her to walk, but it does mean you can remove all the rubbish piled up in the footwells and the garden waste you’ve been hauling about for the past few weeks.

You should also remove your set of golf clubs from the boot, unless of course you’re intending to bowl a few overs after work. Or whatever it is you do on a golf course.

Reduce drag

Reduce drag

Roof racks and roof boxes will seriously damage your car’s aerodynamic properties, rendering the hours that engineers spent in the wind tunnel well and truly wasted.

Now, we’re not saying you should leave your mountain bikes at home when heading off for a cycling holiday. And we’re also not suggesting emptying the contents of your roof box into the boot and leaving the dog at home.

However, once you’ve arrived at your destination, you should remove the roof box or anything else you plonked on the roof rack. Oh, and if possible, remove the roof rack as well.

Change up earlier

Change up earlier

Develop a smooth driving style, accelerating gently and reading the road ahead to avoid any unnecessary braking.

Don’t let the engine labour, but aim to change up a gear at around 2,500rpm in a petrol-engined car or 2,000rpm in a diesel. If your car has a gear-shift indicator, use it.

When possible, change up into fifth or sixth gear, which should see fuel consumption drop to its lowest level. But don’t speed, because that’s illegal and it could hurt your wallet. More on this shortly.

Stop braking. No, really…

Stop braking

Strange as it may sound, we urge you to stop braking. Don’t worry, we haven’t taken leave of our senses, it’s just that using your brakes is seriously bad for your wealth.

However, wait, before you go careering off into a wall or the back of that Honda Jazz, hear us out…

If you can keep the car moving all the time, you’ll use less fuel. This is because the act of stopping then starting again uses more fuel than simply rolling along. Read the road ahead and anticipate the flow of traffic, especially when approaching roundabouts. Maintain a steady speed without stopping and you’ll save money over time.

Reduce your speed

Reduce your speed

Speeding is the big no-no, but not only from a legal perspective. A car travelling at 80mph will consume 10 percent more fuel than the same car travelling at 70mph. If you spend most of your time on motorways, this could turn out to be a significant chunk of money.

Of course, it’s not a simple case of the slower you drive, the less fuel you’ll consume, but there is a happy medium to be achieved. Driving at speeds of between 50mph and 60mph in fifth or sixth gear will maximise your returns. But we do appreciate you need to reach your destination at some point.

Whatever, don’t speed – a flash from a camera could result in a fine totalling the cost of a tank of fuel…

Service your car

Service the car

A serviced engine is a happy engine. Well, that’s according to an oil-stained poster we saw hanging up in a garage, once upon a time.

The fact is that a well-maintained engine will run more efficiently and use less fuel. So you should really think about giving your car a long-overdue service.

Your car’s handbook will tell you when it should be serviced, and don’t ignore that helpful reminder on your dashboard. Remember to check your oil from time to time and always use the correct grade for your engine. Again, consult your handbook or telephone your nearest dealer for advice.

Leave earlier

Leave earlier

Sounds obvious, but you should think about leaving earlier for that very important meeting. If you’ve got a deadline to meet, leave home or the office with plenty of time to spare. Not only will you avoid speeding, you may arrive an hour early, giving you time to relax and prepare for that awfully important meeting.

Similarly, if you can combine numerous trips into one journey, you’ll save fuel. Clearly that’s not possible if you have to be in Skipton one day and St Ives the next, but with some basic planning, you could be able to cut down on there number of trips you make in a single month.

Apps like Waze and Google Maps can help with finding the best route, too. 

Avoid driving at peak times

Avoid peak times

Nobody likes getting stuck in a jam. A congested morning commute can set you off on the wrong foot, while a stop-start journey home can lead to added stress before you reach your front door. So, why not avoid driving during peak times?

Setting off for work 30 minutes earlier could result in you missing the jams altogether, giving you time to go for a stroll or have a relaxing coffee before you face the working day. In fact, the money you save on fuel could mean you can afford a few extra take-away lattes every month.

If you can’t avoid the rush hour, think about buying a hybrid car, which should use less fuel in traffic than a standard diesel or petrol model. At the very least, you should consider a car with stop-start technology, which will minimise the amount of fuel you’re wasting.

Shop around for fuel

Shop around for fuel

The cost of fuel can vary from retailer to retailer and it’s not uncommon to find a different set of prices in two outlets next door to each other. So it pays to shop around, although we wouldn’t recommend taking a 20-mile journey to save 1p on a litre of fuel.

PetrolPrices.com is an excellent fuel price comparison site and takes data from nearly 11,000 petrol stations across the UK. Prices are updated daily and the difference between high and low prices can be staggering.

Also consider signing up to a supermarket or petrol station loyalty card, as points can be converted into money-off vouchers.

Buy a more economical car

Buy a more economical car

Some of the smallest and most economical new cars can be purchased on a PCP finance contract for less than £100 a month. If they offer something in the region of 60mpg and your current car manages half that, the maths could add up.

Work out how many miles you drive in a year and how much you’re currently spending on motoring. Then work out how much it would cost with a new car and go from there. Don’t be lured into a false economy.

If the majority of your journeys involve short trips and you have the capacity to install a home charging point, don’t rule out an electric car either For short journeys and town driving, they make a great deal of sense and electric cars have come a long way since the days of the Ford Comuta (see above).

If the sums don’t add up, stick with what you’ve got and look at ways of driving more economically.

Walk or use public transport

Use public transport

If all else fails, leave the car at home and go for a walk. Clearly this won’t work if you live in the country and have a 30-mile commute to contend with, but in some cases a walk or public transport could be the answer.

Alternatively, think about a car-share scheme. By pairing up with another commuter heading in the same direction, you could literally halve the cost of fuel. Hey, it worked for Peter Kay, so it can work for you…

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Petrol, diesel or hybrid – which car is best for you?

petrol diesel or hybrid

Deciding the fuel type of your new car used to be simple. Diesels were workhorses that sounded like black cabs, hybrids were the choice of the open-minded (or open-toe sandaled), and petrol was for performance.

Today, those lines have become blurred. You can buy refined diesels, highly efficient petrol engines and performance-oriented hybrids – along with plug-in hybrids that function like electric cars when their batteries are charged.

Every different type and body style of car: explained

To help you choose the right fuel/engine type, we’ve listed some key points to consider before you buy.

the cost of fuel

Purchase price

Whatever your budget, purchase cost is an important consideration. It can vary enormously within a model range, with fuel type being a major factor.

As a general rule, the more advanced or economical the car’s powertrain becomes, the more expensive it will be to buy.

So a diesel car usually costs at least £1,000 more than its petrol-engined equivalent – and the clever technology in a hybrid costs more again. But your outgoings don’t end there, of course…

Fuel economy

While weighing up list prices on dealer forecourts or used car prices in the classifieds, you also need to consider how many miles you drive each month.

A diesel is typically around 30 percent more economical than a petrol engine of similar output, with that advantage being greater the larger and heavier the car.

Volkswagen Golf GTE Advance

Hybrids can be even more thrifty, but it very much depends on how you use them. Regular hybrids such as the Toyota Prius (also known as ‘self-charging’ hybrids) are most efficient around town.

And plug-in hybrids, such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, only deliver optimum economy if you recharge them before every journey. 

The price of fuel differs as well – with diesel currently costing around 5p per litre more than petrol at the pumps. So you need to gauge your likely mileage first.

Better still, come up with an annual cost comparison, as we’ve done below with three derivatives of the Volkswagen Golf.

Note: we used the outgoing Mk7 model as the Mk8 Golf GTE hybrid hasn’t been tested yet. Fuel prices are averages in April 2020, according to the AA. 

CostsVW Golf petrol: 1.4 TSI (5dr) DSG SE NavVW Golf diesel: 2.0 TDI (5dr) DSG SE NavVW Golf GTE hybrid: 1.4 TSI (5dr) DSG Advance
List price£22,865£25,515£32,600
Average fuel cost*110.4 per litre115.6 per litre110.4 per litre
Combined mpg54.3mpg64.2mpg156.9mpg
Annual fuel cost (10,000 miles)£924.29£818.58£319.88

This illustrates the diesel-powered Golf will only save you around £106 a year in fuel, assuming like-for-like driving styles over 10,000 miles. Given that the car itself cost £2,650 more to buy, it would take 25 years to claw back that initial outlay.

By contrast, the hybrid costs nearly £10,000 more than the petrol to buy, but (theoretically) uses around one-third of the fuel. With a £604 annual saving at the pumps, it will take 16 years to break even. That said, if you plug in to charge every day and mostly do short journeys, you could recoup the difference much sooner.

diesel filler cap

Longevity

Car technology is developing fast in the motor industry – but how long will it last? That’s of particular concern to buyers of hybrid cars, which place huge reliance on battery power. How many years or miles will the cell last? And how much will it cost to replace?

Renault has a battery leasing scheme to help alleviate those concerns. So, if the item fails, owners can automatically swap it for a new one. Other brands cover the hybrid and battery components under a separate warranty (typically five to eight years). 

As for traditional fuel types, diesels have always been regarded as more durable. However, all modern engines should be capable of clocking up at least 200,000 miles if serviced regularly. In reality, it’s body corrosion and the failure of high-cost parts (often elecrronics) that usually end an old car’s life.

plug-in hybrid charging

Tax

Road tax has been dictated almost entirely by carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 2001. 

If you buy a new car now, your annual VED (Vehicle Excise Duty, the official name for road tax) will be based on CO2. If the car fails to meet the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard, you will pay slightly more.

For cars registered between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2020, the first payment will have been higher – known as ‘showroom tax’ – particularly if the car’s list price was over £40,000. Thereafter, the rate is based on fuel type and CO2 emissions.

If your car dates from before 1 March 2001, VED is based on engine size. And cars over 40 years old pay no road tax at all.

The picture is far from clear, then, and our best advice is to use the government tax tables and calculate your annual costs before you buy.

CO2 emissions

The environment

The most recent technology is almost certainly going to be the ‘greenest’. But the government’s ever-changing stance on what is bad for the environment, and the levies that accompany that, make choosing a car difficult.

Plug-in hybrids – and even pure electric cars – aren’t totally in the clear, as the electricity used to charge their batteries often comes from polluting power stations. 

Petrol power was long considered the dirtiest option, and slammed for its higher CO2 emissions. Thus businesses were incentivised to stock their fleets with diesels. However, diesel cars have recently been stripped of their eco-credentials, and local authorities are implementing ways to restrict their use – particularly in urban areas.

Carmakers are at pains, though, to stress that the latest Euro 6 diesels are virtually as clean as petrol cars in all measurable tailpipe emissions. 

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Car finance jargon explained: what you need to know

Car finance jargon buster

Thanks to affordable finance, it’s never been easier to buy a new or used car. Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deals in particular have led a boom period for car finance.

You may be puzzled by finance jargon when sat with the salesperson at the showroom. But help is at hand.

If you’re bamboozled by balloon payments or confused by conditional sales, our guide to car finance jargon has the answers. Be sure to check out our full guide to the most popular car finance options, too.

This guide to car finance has been put together with help from the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA).

Car finance jargon buster

Car finance jargon

  • Administration fee or Documentation fee
    • The charge for setting up the finance and issuing the relevant documents. It will be included in the total amount payable and taken into account when the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is calculated.
  • Agreement term or length of the agreement
    • The length of time over which you agree to repay the car finance.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
    • The annual cost of a finance agreement over and above the amount you have borrowed on finance. The cost will include interest rate charges and any other fees. APR can be used to compare different finance products.
  • Annual mileage
    • You will be asked to estimate your annual mileage as this helps the lender to calculate the market value (Guaranteed Minimum Future Value) at the end of the contract. Do not underestimate the figure, as you will be charged an excess mileage fee at the end of the finance contract.
  • Bad credit history
    • If a customer has a record of repayment issues, this will be classed as a bad credit history. Although there are specialist lenders for customers with a poor credit score, the cost of borrowing is likely to be higher.
  • Balance financed
    • The amount you need to borrow – the cost of the car less a deposit or part-exchange allowance.
  • Balloon payment or Guaranteed Minimum Future Value (GMFV)
    • The lump sum deferred to the end of a PCP deal or similar. If paid, you will own the car. In most cases, the balloon payment is optional, but check before you sign the agreement.
  • Cash back
    • An amount refunded to the customer which is not required for a deposit. Cash back is often used as an incentive.
  • Conditional Sale
    • The sale of the vehicle is conditional on the customer completing the terms of the agreement. The customer will automatically own the car at the end of the agreement.
  • Credit agreement
    • A legally-binding contract between the customer and the finance company. It will include the loan amount, the term, the rate of interest and the customer’s rights and responsibilities.
  • Credit rating
    • Part of the scoring system used by finance companies when deciding how to price the risk of finance – and the suitable interest rate.

Car finance hire purchase

  • Deposit contribution
    • A contribution made by the supplying dealer or manufacturer. It will reduce the cost of finance.
  • Depreciation
    • The extent and rate at which a new car loses its value. For example, a new car might might be worth 50 percent of its original list price after three years and 30,000 miles.
  • Documentation fee
    • See Administration fee.
  • Early settlement
    • The amount payable should a customer decide to end the finance agreement.
  • Equity
    • The difference between the agreed market value of the car and the loan balance left to pay. If the market value is lower than the remaining balance, the term ‘negative equity’ is used.
  • Final payment
    • The last repayment to be made as part of the finance agreement. This may include an option to purchase fee.
  • Fixed rate interest
    • The same interest rate is applied for the duration of the car finance agreement.
  • Flat rate
    • The base interest charged on the finance. The APR figure is a more accurate representation of the cost of finance.
  • GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) insurance
    • In the event of an accident, the insurer will pay the car’s current market value. GAP insurance can cover the difference between the market value and the finance left to pay.
  • Gross income
    • The finance provider will ask for proof of your income before tax and National Insurance have been deducted. This is called gross income. Net income is the figure after tax and National Insurance are deducted.
  • Hire Purchase (HP)
    • After an initial deposit, customers pay a series of fixed monthly payments over a set period of time. Although you become the car’s registered keeper, you don’t own it until the final payment is made.
  • Interest rate
    • The price you pay for borrowing the money is called the interest.

Car finance PCP

  • Joint application
    • When two or more people apply for car finance, it is called a joint application.
  • Lease Purchase
    • A form of Hire Purchase in which a sum is deferred until the end of the contract. This sum isn’t optional and must be paid.
  • Monthly rentals
    • The amount paid every month under leasing agreements. They’re not classed as repayments as the car will be handed back to the leasing company at the end of the agreement.
  • Option to purchase fee
    • A voluntary payment which, if paid, transfers ownership of the car to the customer.
  • Part-exchange
    • The amount given to you for your existing car when trading it in for a new one.
  • Personal Contract Purchase (PCP)
    • A form of finance with the option to return the car at the end of the contract, which keeps monthly payments lower. See our guide to PCP finance.
  • Quotation
    • Provides an indication of the cost that would apply if you went ahead with the finance. 
  • Residual value
    • The projected value of your car at the end of the finance agreement. Factors such as wear and tear, mileage and market trends may affect the actual value.
  • Secured loan
    • Most finance agreements are secured against the car.
  • Secondary rental
    • To keep renting the car at the end of a lease agreement, it might be possible to arrange a secondary rental. This will typically be in the form of an annual fee or monthly repayments.
  • Term
    • The length of the finance agreement.
  • Trade value
    • How much the car is worth if sold at auction or purchased by a dealer.
  • Unsecured loan
    • A loan that isn’t secured against the car.

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Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

How to stop catalytic converter theft from cars

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsThere has been dramatic increase in the theft of catalytic converters from cars in recent years, with police forces across the country seeing a surge in the expensive components being taken.

London has been hardest hit, with the Metropolitan Police recording more than 2,900 catalytic converter thefts in the first half of 2019 alone. That compares with 1,674 thefts in the whole of 2018. 

What does a catalytic converter do?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsA catalytic converter forms part of the exhaust system on a car. It processes the emissions from a combustion engine into less harmful gases, before releasing them into the atmosphere. 

Catalytic converters first gained widespread use in the 1970s, with the United States making them mandatory from 1975 onwards. They became a common feature of modern cars in the UK from 1992. 

Why are they a target for theft?

The chemical reaction that takes place within the converter requires precious metals to act as the actual catalyst. These include metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. 

Market values for these rare materials have increased substantially in the past 18 months.

Palladium can be sold for £1,300 per ounce, with rhodium is worth up to £4,300 per ounce. Such high figures naturally make catalytic converters a desirable target for thieves. 

How do thieves steal catalytic converters?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

As part of the exhaust system, catalytic converters are left exposed beneath most cars. This means thieves can simply slide under the car to remove them. SUVs are particularly at risk, as the ride height makes access beneath the car easier.

Some are bolted onto the exhaust, with other types being welded into place. The latter can be removed by cutting through the pipework to free the cat. 

Most catalytic converters are unmarked, meaning they cannot be easily traced to an individual vehicle. Once taken, converters can then be sold to unlicensed scrap metal dealers. 

Why are hybrid cars being targeted the most?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter Thefts

Hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, have seen a larger increase in the volume of catalytic converters being stolen. 

Thieves target these vehicles as the catalytic converters are said to be less corroded. The hybrid drivetrain results in lower overall exhaust emissions, leaving the precious metals in better condition. In turn, this makes them more valuable to sell on.

What are manufacturers doing to help?

The problem of catalytic converter theft is not new, with the AA noting that it has been an issue for more than a decade. This has given manufacturers time to develop ways of keeping cats safe.

Toyota offers a special ‘Catloc’ device, which can be retrofitted to a number of vehicles made by the manufacturer. Priced between £200 to £250 including fitting, Toyota has said it sells the Catloc without making a profit. 

The company has also reduced the price of replacement catalytic converters, and increased production, to help get drivers back on the road quicker. 

What else can I do to protect my catalytic converter?

Hybrid Catalytic Converter TheftsNot all cars are at such risk, with some models having the catalytic converted mounted within the engine bay. This makes it much harder to steal. Drivers should check with their local dealership if they are unsure. 

The Met Police has also published advice on how to reduce the risk of your catalytic converter being stolen. These include:

  • Parking your car in a garage overnight
  • Ensuring your car is parked to make accessing the catalytic converter harder
  • Trying to park in a location that is well-lit and overlooked
  • Installing CCTV to cover where your car is parked
  • Marking your catalytic converter with a forensic marker, which can make it harder to sell on by thieves

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Why hand sanitiser damages your car – and how to prevent it

Using hand santitiser

The coronavirus crisis has led to huge demand for hand sanitiser. And while nobody is suggesting you shouldn’t clean and disinfect your hands, that could be bad news for your car’s interior.

Ford engineers have warned that chemicals found in everyday products, including hand sanitisers, sun lotions and insect repellent, can cause interior surfaces to wear prematurely.

Many hand sanitisers contain ethanol, a simple type of alcohol.

Meanwhile, higher protection sun lotions contain greater quantities of titanium oxide. This can react with plastics and natural oils found in leather.

Another harmful chemical, diethyltoluamide or DEET, is found in insect repellents.

Gloves while driving

The net result is a chemical attack on your car’s interior. However, even in times of lockdown, there is a straightforward solution: wear gloves.

Disposable gloves may remove the need for hand sanistiser and protect your car into the bargain. Just remember to throw them away immediately after use.

As for the damage caused by sun cream and insect repellants, wearing long trousers or fitting seat covers could help.

At all times, prioritise your safety – and that of others – over the condition of your car.

Using sun lotion

Mark Montgomery, senior materials engineer at Ford’s Material Technology Centre, said: “From hand sanitisers to sun lotions to insect repellent, consumer trends are constantly changing.

“Even the most innocuous seeming product can cause problems when they come into contact with surfaces hundreds of times a year.”

The teams test at extreme temperatures to replicate the inside of a car parked at the beach on a hot day.

In other tests, the engineers subject samples with ultra-violet light, equivalent to the brightest place on earth, for up to 48 days.

Based on the findings, Ford reformulates the chemical constitution of protective coatings to protect the interiors. The same tests are also used for accessories, such as boot liners and plastic covers.

Sometimes what we do requires a bit of detective work,” said Richard Kyle, materials engineer, based in Dunton.

“There were instances of particularly high wear in Turkey. We managed to trace it back to ethanol potentially being a contributing factor, and most likely a popular hand sanitiser that contained 80 percent ethanol. That’s far higher than anything we’d seen before.

“Once we knew what it was, we were able to do something about it.”

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Could driving on hay fever tablets get you banned?

Advice for drivers with hay fever

Motorists who take take hay fever medication could risk prosecution or even a driving ban. That’s the warning as summer approaches and the pollen count begins to rise.

The same traffic laws apply to over-the counter drugs as illegal substances. If your driving is impaired, you could end up with a criminal record – not to mention the risk of causing an accident.

Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, explains: “Some medicines, including those used to treat hay fever, can have an effect on your ability to drive safely. They could make you tired, dizzy or groggy, and they can compromise your vision and reaction time.

“That’s why it’s so important to check with your GP or pharmacist, and to read any warnings contained on the labels of the medicines you plan to take.

Advice for hay fever sufferers

GEM has issued a safety checklist for drivers who take hay fever medicine. Here’s a need-to-know summary:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if a medicine might affect your ability to drive. Be particularly careful if you are using a medicine for the first time.
  • If you experience potentially dangerous side effects from a medicine, don’t drive. Organise a taxi or a lift from a friend if you need to travel.
  • If you find a medicine is making you tired, ask if there is a non-sedating alternative available. Studies have shown feeling sleepy at the wheel can impair your judgement as much as drinking alcohol.
  • It’s not just prescription medicines that can cause drowsiness and other potentially dangerous side-effects.  Check with your pharmacist if you plan to use an over-the-counter drug, too.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any risks first. If you’re unsure about any warnings on the medicine label, don’t drive.

A 2018 study by Confused.com found 58 percent of drivers who suffer from hay fever said they had driven a car shortly after taking medication, even though many remedies can impair performance behind the wheel.

A worrying 10 percent said they had noticed adverse effects of taking prescription drugs.

It is illegal to drive if you’re unfit to do so because you’ve taken legal or illegal drugs, or you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your blood. 

Legal medication is covered by the same drug-driving laws as substances such as cocaine and cannabis. Drivers are advised to consult the government website for a list of prescription medicines affected by the legislation.

‘Check the medication thoroughly’

Pollen season ahead for drivers

Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards at IAM RoadSmart, warns: “If you are stopped by the police after taking a hay fever remedy and driving whilst impaired you could find yourself falling foul of drug driving regulations.

“Be sure to check the medication thoroughly and see if it is suitable. But most importantly, concentrate on your route to recovery so you can get back onto the road sooner rather than later.”

IAM RoadSmart has the following advice for hay fever sufferers:

  • Ensure your car is clean and dust-free and that you operate the air conditioning or ventilation to your advantage. Changing the pollen filter regularly is important, too.
  • Arrange to see your GP if you feel under the weather. If you haven’t been diagnosed with hay fever but need medication, avoid driving.
  • Blurred vision and drowsiness can be side-effects of over-the-counter medicines. Popular remedies for a runny nose and sneezing symptoms can also affect your driving.
  • If you need anti-histamine, take non-drowsy ones. If you’re unsure, read the leaflet or speak to your pharmacy.
  • When you sneeze at the wheel, you travel up to 50ft with your eyes closed. If you need to get somewhere but don’t feel well enough to drive, ask somebody else to help. The risk simply isn’t worth it

If in doubt, talk to your pharmacist and always read the label.

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How to report an unsafe bus, coach or lorry driver

How to report lorry bus or coach driver

If you believe the driver of a bus, coach or lorry has broken safety rules, you can report them. 

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will deal with your complaint.

Reasons to contact the DVSA include:

  • Breaking drivers’ hours rules
  • Overloading vehicles
  • Using vehicles that are unsafe or unroadworthy
  • Using emission cheat devices
  • Carrying dangerous or hazardous goods without permission
  • Driving an excessively smoky lorry, bus or coach

What information is required?

The DVSA needs to know:

  • Who is involved (the driver or company name)
  • The registration number of the vehicle(s) in question
  • The reason for the complaint
  • When and where the incident took place.

There are three ways to submit the information:

  • Email: enquiries@dvsa.gov.uk
  • Telephone: 0800 030 4103 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 7.30am to 6pm)
  • Post: Intelligence Unit, DVSA, The Ellipse, Padley Road, Swansea, SA1 8AN

Can I report anonymously?

Reporting a lorry driver

The DVSA says it won’t ever ask for names or contact details, calls will not be traced and statements will not be required.

Also, if you wish to remain anonymous. you will not be called as a witness or have to appear in court.

However, anyone willing to supply details may be contacted for more information. And they could be asked to provide a statement or act as a witness.

What happens after a report is made?

The DVSA reviews the information before deciding whether or not to examine the case.

Other government agencies or the police might then get involved, depending on the severity of the incident.

You will receive feedback after the investigation, when official proceedings have ended. The DVSA cannot give feedback on an ongoing case.

How to report other crimes

The process is different for other, non-safety related offences, such as drink-driving, speeding and driving while disqualified. In such cases, contact the police first.

To complain about bus driver rudeness or buses not arriving on time, visit the Bus Users website.

Every different type and body style of car: explained

Motoring was once much simpler. Open a classic copy of the Observer’s Book of Automobiles and, with a few exceptions, cars could be split into a small number of categories.

Saloon, hatchback, estate, coupe, sports and off-roader, plus the odd odd supercar or luxury car: clear and simple.

Today, we’re faced with umpteen choices of all shapes, sizes and subcategories. 

So to help, we have explained 20 different types of car, and provided a definition for each one.

We’ve included a little background and an example for each classification. 

Hatchback

Our love affair with the hatchback began when Renault launched the iconic 4 in 1961. The wide-opening tailgate presented estate-like loading potential, and more than eight million were produced over three decades.

Initially, the saloon and estate refused to roll over and die, with innovative cars such as the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi failing to propel the hatchback into the mainstream. Things changed in the late 1970s though, when motorists finally saw the potential of the humble hatch.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the hatchback as: ‘a car with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upwards to provide easy access for loading’.

A hatchback might be classed as a three-door or five-door, depending on the configuration, with the tailgate considered a door in itself. Today, three-door hatchbacks are less popular, with designers working hard to disguise the rear doors. 

Hatchback buyers are spoilt for choice: the Ford Focus alone offers nearly 70 hatchback derivatives. The Volkswagen Golf (pictured above) is perhaps the archetypal hatchback today.

Hot hatch

Without the hatchback, there wouldn’t be a hot hatch, which provides the proof that practicality can be fun. Although these cars first flourished in the 1980s, there were fast hatchbacks before the term was used.

Models such as the Simca 1100 TI, Renault 16 TX, Chrysler Sunbeam TI and Renault 5 Gordini provided the necessary groundwork for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI: the first cars to be labelled hot hatches.

For us, a real hot hatch needs to be front-wheel drive, ideally with three doors. That said, a modern hot hatch is just as likely to have five doors. 

Saloon

‘A car having a closed body and a closed boot separated from the part in which the drivers and passengers sit,’ is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines the saloon.

For generations, the family saloon was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads and the car you doodled in your sketchbook during double maths.

The boot opening is smaller than a hatchback, while the shape of the luggage area is shallower and less practical. However, many saloons are also offered in estate guise. See below.

The traditional three-box saloon might be a dying breed, but the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 keep the segment alive.

Estate car

It’s all about space in this load-lugging class. You get the same level of comfort and equipment as a hatchback or executive saloon, plus a furniture-friendly boot. Estate cars usually feel more agile than equivalent SUVs, too.

If you occasionally venture off-road, vehicles such as the Audi A4 Allroad arguably offer the best of both worlds: raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive without the weight, inferior fuel economy and social stigma of an SUV. Many also prefer the long, sleek profile of an estate car – even once-boxy Volvo wagons look stylish now.

What’s common to all is a wealth of practical touches, such as fold-flat seats, electric tailgates, boot dividers and retractable tow bars. Given the loads these cars are expected to shift, you’re more likely to be offered a diesel engine – so they should be decently economical.

MPV

Whatever you call it, what we class as a minivan, people carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) can trace its roots back to the Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, launched at the tail-end of 1983.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on, with Renault blazing a trail in Europe with the Matra-designed Espace. It spawned a multitude of competitors, designed from the ground up to carry many passengers – usually five or seven – and their luggage.

Compact MPVs soon followed, often based on the platform and components of traditional family hatchbacks. Examples include the Renault Megane Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso.

Today’s MPVs are characterised by flexible seating arrangements and often sliding doors. There will be room for up to seven people, plus lots of clever storage space.

While the market is in decline, cars such as the Volkswagen Touran, Ford Galaxy and Citroen C4 Spacetourer remain faithful to the concept of practicality over style.

SUV

An SUV is a Sport Utility Vehicle, a term used historically to categorise a 4×4 or off-road vehicle. The SUV has its roots in military-derived vehicles, such as the Willys Jeep and Land Rover.

As time moved on, the SUV became less workmanlike and more lifestyle-led. The Jeep Wagoneer pioneered the idea of a sport utility vehicle long before the term was first used, feeling more car-like than any other 4×4 on the market.

Other SUVs soon followed, most notably the Range Rover, which first appeared in 1970. Early SUVs offered an off-road bias, with some feeling a tad primitive and unwieldy on the road, but today we expect them to offer a perfect blend of on- and off-road capabilities.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from the compact Suzuki Jimny to the luxurious Bentley Bentayga

To be classed as an SUV, we expect a car to offer a commanding driving position, a practical interior and some off-road skills. Not all come with four-wheel drive, but as the majority spend their time entirely on tarmac, that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

Crossover

In essence, a crossover is a car with the lofty suspension and practicality of an SUV, but the running costs of a family hatchback. In other words, more urban-roader than off-roader.

The lines have been blurred by the increasingly car-like and more efficient SUVs, which spend more time on the road than off it. 

The claim that Nissan invented the crossover with the 2006 Qashqai is nonsense, although it unquestionably led to the introduction of the term.

In respect of a front-wheel-drive crossover, the Matra Rancho led the way, although the world wasn’t quite ready for a car with off-road styling but next-to-no off-road ability. 

City car

There should be no problems describing a city car, which is a small, fuel-efficient and best suited to urban driving. 

City cars are designed to carry two people comfortably up-front, but legroom can limited in the back. Expect a small boot, too. On the plus side, compact dimensions (less than four metres long) mean they can use a small engine, so fuel bills and CO2 emissions will be low. 

The BMW Isetta, Fiat Nuova 500 and Mini were early pioneers of the cutesy urban car concept, while today’s city cars might offer five doors and the level of kit you’d expect to find on something much larger and more expensive.

The near-identical Volkswagen Up, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo triplets are recent examples of successful city cars.

Supermini

According to Austin 1100 Club historian, Chris Morris, the 1100 “was the first supermini, as we know them today.” You can understand the logic: here was a natural extension of the Mini, with compact proportions and a roomy interior.

Today, the Ford Fiesta is the archetypal supermini. Sized between a city car and a family hatchback, it offers cheap running costs and is as good to drive in town as on a long journey.

Coupe

A coupe is traditionally a sporty-looking two-door car with a fixed roof, either with two seats or with two additional seats in the rear (known as a 2+2).

The name itself is derived from the French word for ‘cut’, and refers to the steep angle of the rear screen, which gives the coupe its rakish good looks. Popular examples include the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series.

Some of the German brands have attempted to stretch the definition by creating four-door coupes (such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS), but in reality, these tend to be nothing more than four-door saloons with restricted rear headroom.

Convertible

In Europe, only the Germans purchase more convertibles than the British. Turns out our far-from-tropical climate is no barrier to getting the top down at any given opportunity.

A convertible – or cabriolet – is four-seater or 2+2 with a removable or folding roof. Examples include the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, Mini Convertible and now-defunct Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

The words are mostly interchangeable, with ‘cabriolet’ a French word first used in the 18th century to describe a light horse-drawn carriage. Convertible has more modern origins.

Roadster

Once again, the word ‘roadster’ has its origins in the equine world. In the 19th century, the term was used to describe a horse with an ability to draw a carriage over vast distances in a single day.

From an automotive perspective, a roadster is an open sports car with seating for two, with the MGB and Triumph Spitfire two prime examples from the past.

Today, the Mazda MX-5 is the roadster most people think of first.

Targa

A Targa top is a semi-convertible body style with a removable roof section and a full-width roll bar behind the seats.

The name was first used by Porsche when it unveiled the 911 Targa in 1965, with the German firm having the foresight to trademark the name before the launch.

The 911 wasn’t the first car to feature a Targa roof, however. In 1961, Triumph created a ‘Surrey Top’ for the TR4, with the equivalent of a rear section of a hardtop and a removable canvas to bridge the gap between the windscreen and the rear of the car.

Sports car

Things were simple in the black and white days of Terry Thomas. A sports car was an open two-seater with just enough power to perform. 

An MGB was a sports car. A Ford Capri wasn’t. A Porsche 718 Boxster is a sports car. A Ford Mustang isn’t. And yet all four cars were built in the name of fun, with practicality sitting further down the list of priorities.

Today, the term has been extended, to include hard-top coupes such as the Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ and Jaguar F-Type Coupe.

Executive

Euro NCAP uses the ‘executive’ tag to categorise cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In other words, cars slightly larger than a typical company motor.

There’s an aspirational quality to the executive car, seen as a cut above the ordinary family runabout. Something for middle managers to aim for: the carrot used as a motivational tool by MDs and CEOs.

Today, as carmakers push further upmarket, the ‘executive’ tag is more far-reaching. Everything from the Ford Mondeo to the Tesla Model S can be classed as an executive, with size no longer a barrier to entry.

Which is why the ‘exec’ label fits both the BMW 3 Series and the 5 Series.

Luxury

There’s a distinct gap between a premium motor and a luxury car.

To be considered luxurious, a car must leave nothing to chance in the pursuit of perfection. The most exquisite materials, impeccable craftsmanship and, in today’s world, the most cutting-edge technology.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 Series, the Audi A8 are luxury cars, as is anything built by Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Quadricycle

A quadricycle isn’t really a car. Instead, the EU places the four-wheeled vehicle in the same category as mopeds, motorcycles and motor tricycles.

There are two sub-categories: light and heavy quadricycles. Nip across to France, and you’ll find a multitude of these tiny, low-powered and lightweight vehicles. The predominant brands are Aixam and Ligier.

In the UK, the Renault Twizy is the most prominent example. 

Supercar

What was the first supercar? The Bugatti 57SC Atlantic of 1936? Maybe the Mercedes-Benz 300SL of 1954? How about the Lamborghini Miura of 1966?

A tough call, but the trio helps to form a definition of what makes a supercar.

What do you they have in common? An expensive price tag, exhilarating performance, drop-dead gorgeous styling and the capacity to make grown men (and women) go weak at the knees.

Above all else, if a child makes room on their bedroom wall for a poster of said car, then it is almost certainly a supercar.

Think Ferrari 812 Superfast, Porsche 911 GT3 and Lamborghini Huracan.

Hypercar

“We can agree that both supercars and hypercars are expensive, exotic and fast. The difference between them is really a matter of extremeness. And in the case of companies with multiple models, the car’s position in the model line.

‘No hypercar has a more expensive or more exclusive corporate sibling.’ Maxim presents a pretty decent summation of the supercar versus hypercar debate.

Maxim goes on to claim that the Bugatti Veyron was ‘probably the first bona fide hypercar,’ which is something many people would agree with. Although we’d also add an honourable mention for the McLaren F1.

It’s all about excess and pushing the boundaries. The McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, Bugatti Chiron and Rimac Concept One are 100 percent hypercar.

Pick-up

We conclude our rundown of the different car classifications with an easy one: the pick-up.

There are various types – double cab, crew cab, single cab – but thanks to the Ford F-Series, the pick-up is the best-selling vehicle in the world.

How to buy a new car battery online in lockdown

Buy a car battery in lockdown

With the coronavirus lockdown leaving many vehicles left unused, a flat battery could be a problem when it comes to needing your car again.

If you have found it increasingly harder to start your car, or that it will just not start at all, you might need a new battery.

Read our guide on how you can order a new car battery online, and the options to get it fitted.

Why might my car battery be flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Although modern car batteries have features to help them preserve charge when left unused, the chemical reaction occurring inside will still cause it to slowly discharge over time.

Equipment like car alarms and even clocks take a small amount of charge, too. 

Alone these should not cause a healthy battery to flatten fully, but they may be enough to drain the life out of an old or weakened one. 

Leaving interior lights on, or devices plugged into charging sockets, will mean a much quicker route to a dead battery. 

How can I stop my car battery from going flat?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

The most obvious way to stop it going flat is to drive your car. However, current government restrictions mean driving simply to charge your battery is unlikely to be considered an essential journey. 

Manufacturers such as Kia have recommended allowing your car engine to run in idle for 20 minutes once a fortnight. Doing so should allow the battery to keep charged up.

Safety warning: this should be done outdoors, and with the car supervised at all times.

A dedicated battery charger, or a trickle charger, can also be used to maintain charge during extended periods without use. Some chargers also have the ability to ‘jump start’ a flat battery. 

Where can I buy a new car battery online?

Buy a car battery in lockdownIf all else has failed and your car battery is clearly in need of replacement, there are numerous options to order a new one online and have it delivered to your door.

Halfords offers a substantial range of new batteries, and the option to have it delivered to your home. The company also offers click and collect options designed to maintain social distancing.

Similarly, Euro Car Parts is able to supply various different car batteries with free delivery. Click and collect is available for key workers. 

The RAC Shop sells an extensive range of batteries, and can have one delivered to your door the next working day. 

What kind of car battery do I need?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Gone are the days of just sticking any 12-volt battery under the bonnet and forgetting about it. Modern cars have complicated electrical systems, and the right battery is needed to avoid the risk of damaging them.

Cars with automatic Start-Stop systems, which can turn the engine off when stationary at traffic lights for instance, need their own special type of battery. These will be marked as ‘AGM’ or ‘EFB’, and should be replaced with a similarly designated battery. 

Online retailers such as Halfords, Euro Car Parts and the RAC all offer ‘battery finder’ tools on their websites.

Simply type in your car registration number to find the best match for your motor, but make sure you check against what is currently fitted, just to be sure.

Can I fit a new car battery myself?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Again, the complexity of modern cars means fitting a new battery yourself is not necessarily a simple task. Cars with automatic Start-Stop need to have their battery management system reset when a replacement is fitted, which requires specific equipment to do. 

For those with older vehicles, the RAC has a comprehensive guide should you feel confident enough to fit a replacement battery yourself. 

If you are unsure about fitting a battery yourself, then leave it to a professional.

What if I want someone to fit it for me?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

If you decide to have a new battery fitted by someone else, you have multiple choices depending on your circumstances. 

Should your battery be completely flat, and you have breakdown cover, check if your policy includes battery replacement.

Both the RAC and AA either offer free, or low-cost, battery fitting for members. Certain policies will also include the actual cost of the battery, too. 

Non-members can also use the RAC and AA to supply and fit replacement batteries, with same-day services advertised. 

Halfords also offers mobile battery fitting through the Tyres On The Drive service.

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Should your car still be drivable, but with a battery that will need replacing, various retailers can fit a replacement for you. 

Halfords, Euro Car Parts, Kwik Fit, and ATS Euromaster are still able to offer battery fitting services. 

COVID-19 means these outlets are prioritising key workers and emergency services first, and a booking will be needed first. 

What if I own an electric or hybrid car?

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Electric and hybrid vehicles typically feature two distinct batteries: a main lithium-ion unit for the electric motors, plus a regular 12-volt battery for accessories.

This 12-volt unit can also run out of charge, just like in a normal petrol or diesel-engined car.

If this 12-volt battery is flat, it may prevent an electric car from starting regardless of how fully charged the main battery is.

Some plug-in vehicles, like the Kia Niro, are able to jump start the 12-volt battery from the main lithium-ion battery.

Charging and replacing the 12-volt battery in an electric or hybrid vehicle is likely to be more complicated than a conventional car.

Read the vehicle handbook and owners manual for your specific model to avoid the risk of damaging electrical components.

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